Bacon’s Four Idols Essay

Francis Bacon is widely regarded as the father of empiricism. Bacon is credited for making many scientific discoveries, most notably the scientific method. He also provides us with a new tool for reasoning through The New Organon. He gives us a set of idols that he feels need to be set aside in order to discover new truths. Idols are falsely worshipped ideas that can fill our minds with incorrect thoughts. They are predispositions that create both prejudices and misconceptions. Bacon states that there are four idols that we must eliminate in order to be able to make clear decisions.

The four idols are idols of: the tribe, the cave, the marketplace, and the theater. The four idols are a set of human prejudices that distort our perception on life. Idols of the tribe are associated with humanity and the predispositions that are inherent to human beings. For example, human beings hold the prejudice that they are the center of the universe, but this is false. The idols of the tribe are the natural weaknesses and tendencies that are common to human nature. These are innate; therefore they cannot be eliminated completely.

The idols of the tribe are abstractions in error that arise from the common misconceptions of humans. They resemble all human misunderstandings. They also address how we are able to take information and express it. This implies that there is more information in nature than we could possibly know; therefore we are never completely aware of anything. Bacon includes our “spiritual nature” in idols of the tribe. Our spiritual nature is another factor that can alter our perceptions on life. Humans own “wishful thinking” is another thing that affects our outlooks.

We are naturally inclined to believe and even accept something that we would prefer to be true. Our tendency to rush to conclusion, which leads to making premature decisions, is another factor that could alter our sense of perceptions. Each person’s senses could also lead to deception. The second idol is idols of the cave. The idols of the cave have to do with people individually and their unique interests. For example, some people prefer old ideas while some would rather believe in new ideas, its all a matter of personal opinion. These come from the unique characteristics of each individual, such as origin, religion and social class.

There are many examples of the idols of the cave. If a person has some ties to a specific theory or belief, than they would tend to defend that group, even if it may not be the right or just choice. The name comes from the fact that we all have our own “cave” that contains each persons own individuals beliefs and thoughts. The third idol is the idols of the marketplace. This idol is one of language, communication, and interaction. These result from the mistruths that people spread while communicating between one another. A friend can have a big influence on a persons thoughts and beliefs.

Language is a prejudice because of the many different connotations that appear in language. Because of this people can get confused and may express something in words that they truly don’t believe in. The fourth idol is the idols of the theater. These are related to philosophical and theological ideas from the past. Many of these are assumptions that we have come to believe as true over time. An example of this would be a person believing in something that they don’t necessarily know is true, but act as if it is. These idols revolve around old philosophical and theological beliefs on the past.